Camilla speaks to Monty Don in Gardeners' World appearance
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Pictured on the pristine garden grounds of the private residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla was seen to be enjoying the sweet peas underneath a cane arch. Shared on the Duchess’s Instagram account, @duchessofcornwallsreadingroom, royal followers have swooned over the image. This cane arch is easier to DIY than you may think and this is how to do it.
While most sweet peas are held up by a wigwam or Teepee-type cane structure, it seems that for the Royals, a simple yet elegant cane arch is better suited.
Covered with intertwined sweet pea vines, the structure featured in Highgrove Garden resembles a secret-garden style walkway.
This natural looking cane frame boasts a homemade look with a rustic finish where the tall canes meet the delicately arched roof – adding a touch of normality to the renowned garden found in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
Adding a touch of royalty to your own garden couldn’t be easier, requiring just a few tools to replicate your very own Highgrove style sweet pea arch.
How to make a sweet pea garden arch
One method is to use willow rods and garden twine to fashion a tunnel structure with an arched top.
- 40 Brown soaked willow rods (avoid green/living ones), in the ratio 9ft long rods for every three feet, though this will depend on how long you intend for your tunnel to be.
- Garden twine
- Pair of scissors
Before crafting your cane arch soak the rods for flexibility.
Start by pushing the thick ends of the rods into the ground on either side of space or path you are building the arch over.
Leave equal space between them, using a three-inch gap as a rough guide.
Carefully bend the tops of each parallel pair until they meet in a curve – play around with heights until you’re happy with it, before tying them together with the garden twine.
You can add bamboo canes horizontally along the sides for extra support which can be twined together.
Begin weaving rods horizontally through all the uprights – around eight inches from the ground.
If it doesn’t reach all the way to the end of the tunnel, continue with a new rod, tying any loose ends as you go.
Repeat this process until you have three laterals, weaving in the alternate pattern to create a strong bond.
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Finally, weave in two further groups of laterals on each side, using double (16-inch) intervals for a secure arch.
This sweet pea arch can be used to divide a section of your garden or just to fill dead space with a hint of florals.
When to sow sweet pea seeds
Of course you’ll need sweet pea seeds for this gorgeous arch to look just like the one at Highgrove – and the timing couldn’t be better to secure your arch before sowing season.
When it comes to sowing your seeds, there are three ways you can get them going.
One method is to start them indoors in late winter/early spring roughly 8-10 weeks before the last frost, or directly outdoors early in the spring around six weeks before the last frost.
If you’re expecting a mild winter, you can sow directly outdoors in autumn – but this is generally only recommended for areas where the ground doesn’t freeze.
For a sweet pea smothered arch:
- Space seeds two inches apart along the base of the tunnel on either side.
- For a profuse colour, pack in the seeds to replicate the stunning Highgrove display.
- Water well and protect the seedlings from garden pests until they are well established.
- Support stems by tying them in for well-structured growth.
- Deadhead spent-blooms to encourage new growth when flowering and prolong their season.
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